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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Escaping the Fossil Fuel Trap"

Michael Spence says developed countries should pay the cost of reducing carbon emissions, including paying for abatement measures in developing countries:

Escaping the Fossil Fuel Trap, by Michael Spence, Project Syndicate: ...[The] use of fossil fuels, and hence higher CO2 emissions, seems to go hand in hand with growth. This is the central problem confronting the world as it seeks ... to combat climate change. Compared to the advanced countries, the developing world now has both low per capita incomes and low per capita levels of carbon emissions. Imposing severe restrictions on their emissions growth would impede their GDP growth and severely curtail their ability to climb out of poverty.
The developing world also has a serious fairness objection to paying for climate-change mitigation. The advanced countries are collectively responsible for much of the ... carbon in the atmosphere... As a consequence, the developing world’s representatives argue, the advanced countries should take responsibility for the problem.
But a simple shift of responsibility to the advanced countries by exempting developing countries from the mitigation process will not work. ... If developing countries are allowed to grow, and there is no corresponding mitigation of the growth in their carbon emissions, average per capita CO2 emissions around the world will nearly double in the next 50 years, to roughly four times the safe level... Advanced countries by themselves simply cannot ensure that safe global CO2 levels are reached. ...
So the world’s major challenge is to devise a strategy that encourages growth in the developing world, but on a path that approaches safe global carbon-emission levels by mid-century. ...
These considerations suggest that no emission-reduction targets should be imposed on developing countries until they approach per capita GDP levels comparable to those in advanced countries. ...[A]dvanced countries ... should be allowed to fulfill their obligations, at least in part, by paying to reduce emissions in developing countries (where such efforts may yield greater benefits). ...
The best way to implement this strategy is to use a “carbon credit trading system” in the advanced countries, with each advanced country receiving a certain amount of carbon credits to determine its permissible emission levels. If a country exceeds its level of emissions, it must buy additional credits from other countries... But an advanced country could also undertake mitigation efforts in the developing world and thus earn additional credits...
Such a system would trigger entrepreneurial searches for low-cost mitigation opportunities in developing countries, because rich countries would want to pay less by lowering emissions abroad. As a result, mitigation would become more efficient...
Conflict between advanced and developing countries over responsibility for mitigating carbon emissions should not be allowed to undermine prospects for a global agreement. A fair solution is as complex as the challenge of climate change itself, but it is certainly possible.

    Posted by on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 01:17 AM in Development, Economics, Environment | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (51)


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